Literally translated Burkina Faso means “land of the upright people.” It has long been one of West Africa’s most stable countries, despite having one of world’s lowest GDPs and being surrounded by countries with serious security issues, like Mali and Nigeria. In October 2014 Burkina Faso found its way onto TV screens around the world - a 36 hour popular uprising forced long-term leader Blaise Compaore from office. An interim administration was appointed and elections are planned for 11th October 2015, the first for 30 years without Compaore’s candidacy.
One unexpected outcome of Burkina Faso’s revolution has been a strengthening of the country’s open data initiative. The interim administration, reflecting on some of the root causes of the revolution, is looking to transparency, as well as youth employment in ICT, as a stabilizing force (you can find the minutes of their last cabinet meeting online here). A small, dedicated government team built an alpha open data portal and pilot app the summer before the revolution, together with volunteers from civil society and some support from ODI and the World Bank. It was presented at the ODI Summit by the Director General Alfred Sawadogo.
In early March, World Bank colleagues and I visited Ouagadougou again to work alongside government officials to support a strategic action plan for the next phase of Burkina Faso’s open data initiative, including a grant from the World Bank focused on climate change adaptation.
Today marks the end of the connect:ID conference, one of the most influential events in the United States, powered through an alliance with the world’s leading identity industry association.
I was honored to be invited to speak on the role of identification in the post-2015 development agenda and the World Bank Group's Identification for Development (ID4D) initiative. There was great deal of excitement in the audience hearing about this global agenda.
The questions raised by the attendants touched upon ways of helping the least-developed, conflict-affected countries in the world, where the rates of birth registration and identification are amongst the lowest in the world (e.g. Liberia), to leapfrog to digital ID systems. Would the World Bank Group support such countries build their identification systems basically from scratch?
As a rapidly urbanizing capital, Accra, Ghana has been experiencing increased economic activity, coupled with rising migration. An increase in urban residents means an uptick in the demand for energy, both electricity and fuel.
The city has constrained human and financial resources to respond to this issue, as energy supply is struggling to keep up with ever-growing demand. Consequently, severe electricity shortages occur at the national level, resulting in frequent load shedding and energy price inflation, to the tune of 12 percent in the third quarter of 2014 alone.
Dumsor or load shedding has become part of the everyday life of local inhabitants; in fact, it is such a chronic issue that it has even made it into Wikipedia. Under the current timetable, residential customers have up to 24 hours of power outage for every 12 hours of power and are forced to use back-up power, kerosene lamps or be without power. At the same time, the Energy Commission of Ghana estimates that every year end-use electricity waste is around 30 percent of all of the electricity consumed, which in part, is due to the inefficiency of appliances and their overuse by the population. As is well known, inefficient use of energy contributes to higher levels of energy consumption than needed.
Although energy supply in the city is so often an issue, creative energies are bubbling in local information technology and innovation hubs, ready for a “spillover” into other sectors such as energy. Accra is home to a growing community of technologists and innovators, offering great and untapped potential for a new force to offer solutions, particularly, in the area of energy efficiency.
The title of this blog entry is one of the many questions we’ve been asking in our research to identify key success factors for urban tech innovation ecosystems. We wanted to better understand what causes tech innovation and entrepreneurship to grow faster in some cities, as well as explore the potential of these ecosystems for creating new sources of employment and growth.
Traditionally, the focus has been in clustering: building technology parks or innovation districts where companies, research and development (R&D) labs, universities and other actors were placed together in a defined geographic district or area. We have challenged this unidirectional focus and looked beyond geography to understand how connections and the social dimension of the ecosystem impacted on its growth and sustainability.
The answer we are getting is that the social dimension not only matters, it matters quite a big deal. The social dimension is the “glue” of the ecosystem and expands it beyond geographic boundaries of districts or technology parks. Networking assets (specific actors and events that work as social networks nodes) keep this social dimension together, being central to the ecosystem.
When we explored the impact of the social and the geographic dimension of tech startups in their success (in terms of capital rising), we found a positive and significant correlation for the social dimension. We did not find any correlation for geographic location.
These findings are not yet conclusive, but they point to one important direction: policies need to focus more on the social dimension. Ecosystems need to be understood as a community that requires active nurturing and maintenance in order to thrive and grow. The geographic dimension seems to be a tool for the development of social connections, but it does not develop these connections by itself (something else is needed). This means that the focus of policy to support the ecosystems should pay attention to the development of networking assets that kick-start communities, build networks (such as meet-ups and mentoring) and provide platforms for community building ( such as collaboration spaces).
Two years have passed since the World Bank’s information and communications technologies (ICT) team conducted the world’s first Open Data Readiness Assessment in Russia’s Ulyanovsk region. Shortly after this assessment was completed and an action plan produced, Ulyanovsk launched its Open Data portal, which was widely acknowledged both by Russia’s federal government and a range of international experts. Following this successful pilot, the World Bank has conducted Open Data Readiness Assessments in Rwanda, Tanzania, Antigua and Barbuda, Burkina Faso, Peru and Ethiopia.
We are proud to have worked together on an Open Data Initiative whose experiences and lessons learned have informed ongoing work in so many other countries. Highlights of our project in Ulyanovsk include two main results:
First, the creation of an entire Open Data ecosystem, anchored by an Open Data portal: http://opendata.ulgov.ru. There are currently 263 data sets (available in CSV, XML, JSON, HTML, XLSX and XSD formats) for viewing and downloading. All data complies with Russian laws and international standards.
The project demonstrates a high level of engagement: citizens, journalists, experts and investors looked through the data files more than 313,944 times and downloaded them more than 64,156 times. The Open Data Portal has helped a variety of clients and stakeholders make more informative decisions in a shorter amount of time, therefore saving financial and other resources. Four mobile apps and a GIS portal, based on Open Data, together form the finished project.
Mobile services are the extension services of inclusion. Increasingly, the world’s poor – and especially the bottom 40 percent in terms of income – are being reached via mobile devices by government agencies, development partners, banks, companies and others.
As we extend networks, and in particular broadband, to reach more isolated populations and the bottom 40 percent, we need to foster the development of relevant content in substance (including government services) as well as form (including pictorial and video information for the illiterate).
The private sector is the key driver of this entire change process, which government should facilitate.
The acceleration of technological change – with mobile is at the forefront – is leading to increased convergence between networks, devices, services and content providers. Judging from what I saw and heard during last week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, my sense is that telecommunications regulation (as practiced today) will soon become obsolete, overshadowed by the importance of ensuring an overall balance and flexibility in this broader, converging market.
Consequently, institutions like the World Bank will need to find better ways to ensure that key regulators talk to each other and work towards the greater public good. This includes not only telecom and competition authorities, but also broadcasting, financial services and other regulatory bodies. We should facilitate these conversations between regulators, especially in view of the fast-growing involvement of telecommunications entities in the mobile money space.
The first people to arrive at the scene of any natural disaster are almost always members of the affected community. Yet in most cases, disaster response and recovery mechanisms are built from the top down, with tools and processes built by and for government and other institutional actors.
Code for Resilience — a global initiative managed by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) — focuses on strengthening community resilience to natural disasters and is helping bridge this divide by connecting disaster risk management experts with local technology communities.
To share their experiences, a number of Code for Resilience participants from across Asia will gather at the Asia Resilience Forum 2015, organized as part of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction and Recovery’s Public Forum March 14-15, 2015, in Sendai, Japan. They will discuss how they are engaging with disaster risk management authorities and developing community-led technology solutions to address local challenges in countries including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, and Vietnam.
Advances in technology — including rising communications access, falling hardware costs, and a growing movement toward open data, open source, and open innovation — have created a new opportunity to engage local communities in creating a feedback loop that informs data about disaster preparedness, response and recovery.
At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week, topics such as Mobile Identity and Mobile for Development and Inclusion stole the spotlight. Today, it’s becoming clearer that secure digital identities can become the gateways to greater social welfare, more inclusive and transparent government and, of course, economic growth.
For its tenth anniversary, the Mobile World Congress had more than 2,100 companies showcasing their innovations in front of record-breaking audiences: over 93,000 attendees from 200 countries.
The GSM Association (GSMA) also hosted a seminar program to educate conference participants on industry initiatives such as Connected Women programme: a timely undertaking that promotes gender diversity in the telecommunications sector.
Mobile identity offers a means of extending access to a vast array of services, such as mobile banking and mobile health, to everyone, particularly those who have been previously marginalized, including women and those living in poverty. The ability to get an identity that is verifiable online is a transformational capability that can grant access to banking, mobile payments and healthcare, as well as transportation and other advanced identity-based digital services.
At the most fundamental level, the planning and delivery of economic and social support programs relies on the government’s knowledge of its citizens: who they are, where they live, their social and economic circumstances, and so on. Utilizing mobile devices to register and validate an identity offers a compelling opportunity for governments and businesses to authenticate and then provide access to a broad range of digital services.
Meet Joan, a 24-year-old online outsourcing entrepreneur in Kenya. Joan started working online when she was 21 and still in university. Today, she has her own business, employs five people and earns approximately US$800 per month after paying her staff.
Joan and many others are profiled in a new study on online outsourcing (OO), entitled “Leveraging the Global Opportunity in Online Outsourcing,” which will be published in late March 2015.
The study, developed by the World Bank in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation’s Digital Jobs Africa Initiative, is the first publication to summarize and analyze global experiences in OO. It provides a better understanding of OO’s potential impact on human capital and employment, as well as explores possible ways that governments can improve their competitiveness in the OO market. The study includes case studies from Nigeria and Kenya, and an online toolkit to assess country competitiveness.